It costs time and money to file a case in court. Divorce cases may take several months and even over a year to finish. Court cases often include:
- Fees to file your case, if you cannot get them waived
- Lawyer fees or your own time spent figuring out the court process and doing the paperwork
- Time spent in court, which may be time you have to take off work
To file for divorce, take the steps below.
1. Fill out your divorce forms
Use our program to fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make 3 copies of each form.
- How to Get a Divorce (No Children)
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union (Divorce No Children)
- Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union (Divorce No Children)
- Marital Real Estate Attachment
- Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage, Invalidity or Legal Separation
- Summons - Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Entry of Appearance (Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union)
- Non-Marital Real Estate
- Additional Debts and Liabilities (Divorce No Children)
- Additional Personal Property or Bank Accounts (Divorce No Children)
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees. If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
A divorce petition must include several things:
- Age, job, and home address of both spouses, and how long each has lived in Illinois
- Date and place of marriage
- What they want the judge to decide
There are some things you should not put in a divorce petition:
- Anyone’s date of birth
- Anyone’s Social Security number
- Anyone’s individual tax identification number
- A bank account or credit card number
- Any driver’s license number
2. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
3. Tell your spouse about the divorce
After filing, you must send your spouse a Summons and attach the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A Summons is a document that tells a person about the lawsuit and when to come to court. Here are the rules to know about a Summons:
- You may send the Summons to the Sheriff, or if you don’t know where your spouse is, you can notify them by publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper.
- There is a usually a cost to having a Summons served. The cost depends on how the summons is served to the other party; and
- If you do not give your spouse a Summons telling them about your lawsuit within the required time, the lawsuit may be dismissed because there was not proper notice of the lawsuit.
After they are notified, your spouse can file an Answer and an Appearance if they choose. If they file these forms, they should send a copy to you.
If you are trying to notify your spouse by publication, they have until the date listed on the Notice of Publication to file their response to the divorce. If they do not file a response in that time, they can be held in default, and the case will move forward without them.
Learn more about how to serve a Summons.
4. Get a hearing date
If your spouse doesn’t file a response 30 days after being notified, you should ask for a hearing date. Depending on the county where you filed for divorce, you will need to contact either the circuit clerk or the coordinator of the judge who usually handles divorce cases to request the hearing. If your spouse signed an Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent form waiving service, you do not need to wait the 30 days before asking for a hearing.
6. Going to court for a divorce case
You should have received a court date and time on the written notice from the other party or circuit clerk. If you cannot find your court date and time, call the circuit clerk.
Bring a copy of the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage to the hearing. You should also bring all of the other documents that you filed when you started the divorce and any papers or documents that you used to help you fill those out (such as pay stubs, bank account information or tax returns).
Follow these suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called; and
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
After you have testified, you should present the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage to the judge for his or her signature.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of going to court in Illinois.
Updated: September 2016